Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Apostle of the Abnakis: Father Sebastian Rale, S. J. (1657‑1724)

In the history of the missionary activity in what is now known as the State of Maine, one of the most prominent names is that of Sebastian Rale, the "Apostle of the Abnakis." His was the longest and most eventful period of continuous priestly labor in this section on the New World. Born at Pontarlier in the Diocese of Besançon, Department of Doubs, a on January 4, 1657, he entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Dôle in the Province of Lyonsb on September 24, 1675. After passing successfully through the various periods of probation which are customary in the Society of Jesus, he had just finished his p166theological studies in 1688, when a call for volunteers came from the Mission of St. Francis in Canada. He offered his services, and they were at once accepted, because he possessed all the requirements for the arduous life of a missionary in uncivilized lands: zeal, resourcefulness, capacity for painstaking and persevering labor, and an iron constitution. On July 23, 1689, he set sail for America from Rochelle, forming one of the party headed by Frontenac.
On reaching Quebec in October, Father Rale at once began to devote himself to the preparation for his future work. His first plan was to study the Abnaki dialect, since his first mission was an Abnaki village of about two or three hundred inhabitants which was situated a few miles from Quebec. It was his custom to spend a part of each day in the wigwams of the Indians, listening closely to their speech, endeavoring to understand the grammatical construction of their language, and at the same time striving to learn the meaning conveyed. The deep Abnaki gutturals proved the most troublesome. After five months of unceasing effort, he was finally able to utilize his knowledge and to give his untutored charges short, simple catechetical instruction in their own tongue. At the same time he began the composition of an Abnaki Catechism. Very probably a modified form of this completed catechism was the one in use among the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy Indians in Maine as late as 1887.

Link (here) to the full article at a website entitled, Bill Thayer's Website, authored by oddly enough Bill Thayer. Check out his Italian Churches link (here) it contains over three hundred pictures of Catholic Churches in Italy.

SEBASTIAN RÂLE (1652-1724):
(23 August 1999)


Bill Thayer said...

Ho! Thanks for the unexpected link; the Rale article is pretty hagiographical, but will be joined by another, much more scholarly and less devotional — yet finally much moving. (Nothing like keeping people in suspense.) The article is part of a new section of my site on American Catholic History, currently one book and half a dozen journal articles, but I'll be expanding it very soon. As you might expect, Jesuits can be found onsite already (in the book), but will figure even more prominently by and by.

Those churches of Italy onsite by the way, the "count" right now is 651 churches in 381 webpages, but 1447 photos, even if a not unsubstantial proportion of the latter are what I call "tops of churches" — church was closed, and street very narrow, so the best photo left for me to take was up at the top of the façade! That said, whenever possible, and whenever I can rouse myself to decent writing, which I find difficult, churches get full pages with blather from yours truly, usually art criticism rather than history: never been much of a fan of "The earliest mention of this church was in a cartulary of Zotto the Second in 832 etc."

Anonymous said...

good points and the details are more specific than elsewhere, thanks.

- Murk

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- Thomas

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